The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. Proverbs 10:31-32
Just as I had to learn to talk, Jesus had to learn it too. It wasn’t long before He was too big to sleep in Mary’s arms. He became an active toddler, embarking on the learning curves of life. It’s hard to imagine a child who was sinless in how he related to adults. He was perfect and though I’m sure His personality was evident in the way He spoke, his speech was without sin. He teaches me whether I think of Him as a toddler, an adolescent, or adult in the way He communicates.
One thing is common among the flawed human race. We all use superlatives and paint with a broad brush in ways that are self-serving. When I’m angry and I feel like I need to make my point, I will say, “You never care about how I feel.” Do I really mean ‘never’? Probably not, but I believe that the exaggeration will increase the possibility that I’m taken seriously. When frustrated, I will misuse the word ‘always’. “You always come home late.” Is that true? Probably not. But there were enough times to set a precedent and enough times to inflame my frustration.
Then there are overused words like ‘incredible’, ‘amazing’, and ‘life-changing.’ These marketing triggers have invaded the church and colored the claims of those who use them until they are virtually meaningless. They’re thrown around as a way to increase attendance and/or convince someone that something is more effective than it really is. Here’s the thing; few things are incredible, amazing, and life-changing and when they are, I want to know that there are words available to adequately describe them.
Jesus was precise in his language. When He said, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, He meant all. Every single person. In the upper room, when He said, “Tonight, one of you will be betray me”, I can know that He meant only one. Did that mean that none of the rest of the disciples ever let Him down? No. He teaches us about intent and what is premeditated as opposed to slipups. The other eleven disciples, though imperfect, possessed good faith efforts.
The difference between the ways Jesus talked and the way I talk is vast. He never had ulterior motives. There was never a selfish agenda that colored his speech. He said what He meant and every superlative was true. When He promised abundant life, I cannot fathom the far-reaching heights of such abundance.
As a flawed woman who wants to be more like Jesus, I have to curb the temptation to exaggerate in order to bring relief to my pain and frustration. This is where God promises grace. In the trenches, I must pray and ask God for the wisdom to speak with integrity. Every superlative must be under the control of the Spirit of God and if I’m worked up and know that I can’t trust myself to speak well, I should be quiet until I can. Wisdom knows the power of restraint.
This year, Lord, I’ll be working on it. Amen